You Should Play Multiple Sports
Playing multiple sports early prepares athletes for short and long term success.
I've long been a proponent of young athletes playing multiple sports. There are so many benefits to learning different skill sets, playing with different teammates, and taking mental and physical breaks from the daily grind.
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If you've heard me before you know my brother signed with Vanderbilt but was drafted in the first round out of high school. He was a left-handed pitcher and outfielder. He threw 90+ and hit bombs (20 his senior year of high school).
He was an all-state linebacker for the football team, and he won his high school's dunk contest his senior year.
I never read a scouting report before the draft that didn't mention his athletic ability, that he played linebacker, and that he won that dunk contest. He never would have been the athlete he was if he only played baseball - which means he wouldn't have had the same speed, agility, strength, and competitive advantage if he had just been a one sport guy.
Here's why I'm telling that story again...
Season is Over, Time for Off-Season
As summer and fall youth baseball seasons were winding down, I received a lot of questions about what to do in the off-season to help get ready for next season.
I always begin my answer to this question with "take some time off" followed closely with "play another sport." And then of course we talk about lessons, strength and conditioning, family time, etc.
Truthfully, the answer begins to change as the player gets older, but as usual, I want to focus on the 6 - 12 year old.
With that as the backdrop, I saw this Facebook post the other day... 🙄
Generally speaking I think this is poor advice and a bad take. I'll start with number four.
What Comes First, the Chicken or the Egg?
Kids aren't just born elite athletes. Sure, there are freaks of nature that are born with more natural size, strength, speed, and agility than others, but they don't just come out of the womb ready to play in the MLB, NFL, or NBA.
They are elite athletes because they played multiple sports early and often - and mostly with less structure and training than we have today.
Again, and as I always say, there are exceptions. But these guys were born into families that encouraged being outside playing with balls of all sports, spent the time learning by doing, and kept their bodies moving at different speeds and in different directions for much of the year.
There are others that spent their time outside the house playing football, basketball, baseball, or any other ball that would keep them away from their unfortunate situation inside the house. Often it kept them out of trouble. And the byproduct was becoming a better athlete.
You don't become an elite video gamer because you were born smart. It certainly helps to be more naturally analytical and strategic, but you become an elite gamer because you spend hours upon hours playing. Becoming a better athlete or baseball player is no different.
What if my son doesn't want to play other sports?
I answer this by leaning on my opinion and experience of over 20 years coaching young athletes. They don't just not want to play other sports.
You have to encourage them early to play other sports and get involved in other activities.
Why even give them the option when they're young? If you asked them what they really wanted to do they'd tell you they'd prefer to sit in there and play Madden '22 or Fortnite all day with their buddies. And you don't let them because you know it's not what's best for them.
It's not an option at my house. I literally tell my son every year, "I don't care what you do or play, but we're going to do some activity that keeps you moving and busy."
I tried to get him to play soccer early on because my brother and I did that when we were young. It kept us active and in shape. My son didn't like soccer.
Ok, that's fine. What do you want to try next? So then we did basketball.
He likes it but it's not his favorite. So next we tried flag football. He loves it.
For kids 6 years old, just accepting what they say they don't like isn't an option, folks. Get them in other sports and let them try (and learn) new things.
Can we just do strength and conditioning?
Well, you can. But there are at least two likely issues with this.
One, it's expensive. The average parent, myself included, does not have the expertise or the facilities to do this correctly. To get what you need out of it, you need to go at least 3 times per week.
That's going to run you MINIMUM (if you're lucky) $100 a week. $400 a month.
Why not pay $150 for the whole basketball season, practice and/or play 3 days a week, learn new skills, put them outside their comfort zone, get coached by new unfamiliar coaches, and do something different?
For way less money.
Now, as your child gets older, and if you have the means, there's no harm in doing strength and conditioning in OR out of season. But it makes so much more sense for many different reasons to just play other sports.
As for the mental skills comment. Again, nothing wrong with doing that, but playing another sport is going to be better for the masses.
My opinion based on experience
Bottom line, your son might actually end up a Major League Hall of Famer having only played baseball his entire life.
But in reality, there's a close to zero percent chance he ends up a Major Leaguer anyways, no matter what he does.
Just as high schoolers aren't equipped to determine their ultimate career path, nine year olds aren't equipped to know what's best for their athletic development.
Get them experience in uncomfortable situations. Let them practice playing for coaches they don't know. Encourage them to do things they aren't really good at. Put them in a position to learn to compete in many different situations.
There's very little downside to playing multiple sports, and there's very little upside in specializing at an early age. Their bodies aren't even developed yet!
What about the kid who is an absolute STUD at ten years old because he developed faster. You pour all your resources into year 'round baseball, off-season baseball-specific strength and conditioning, mental skills training, and then he quits growing when he's in seventh grade. Never even has a chance to play in college.
Now it's too late to start another sport, even though physically he could have been ready.
I love baseball. Hopefully that's obvious to you by now.
But we all need a break. Sign up for soccer, football, lacrosse, wrestling, basketball, or something else. There will be plenty of time to get ready for baseball season.
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out the audio podcast version with some additional commentary.